Students returned to the University of Maine’s six campuses this fall, hoping for a more consistent academic experience free of shutdowns and Zoom classes.
As those tens of thousands of students returned to residence halls and full courses, university administrators believed that the measures they had put in place would keep Covid-19 cases to a minimum and prevent massive outbreaks like the one that shut down several campuses throughout the country last spring.
Here’s How College System Kept the Covid Cases Low
The system’s Science Advisory Board is chaired by University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy, who told CNN that they developed a science-based, comprehensive approach with the aid of a team that includes an epidemiologist, a statistician, microbiologists, and virologists.
University authorities were about to find out if it would work as the semester began at the end of August.
Cases in the largely vaccinated state began to climb in September. According to the state’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospitals are filling up at a rate not seen since a surge in January.
According to state health data, the number of individuals requiring ventilators has reached an all-time high, and the number of patients in critical care units has reached an all-time high. All counties were labeled as having high levels of transmission.
Despite this, cases at the University of Maine remained exceptionally low, presumably avoiding the state-wide panic. The campus system of more than 30,000 students and workers had a 1.5 percent optimism rating at the beginning of October, compared to the state’s growing 4.5 percent positivity rate.
As of Wednesday, the university’s system had 52 known Covid-19 instances among students or workers, according to CNN. 45 of these were on the flagship campus in Orono. At the University of Maine at Augusta, University of Maine Farmington, and the University of Maine at Presque Isle campuses, there were no instances reported.
That multifront approach, known as the “Swiss cheese” concept, is credited by Ferrini-Mundy as a significant protection against Covid-19. While each preventive measure, or layer of cheese, has holes in it, when they are layered together, they provide a strong defense.
Ferrini-Mundy understands that a significant part of it isn’t simply the safeguards put in place by the university, but also the desire to follow them – a condition that doesn’t always present in other contexts.
The incidence of immunization on campus in comparison to the rest of the state is one of the major reasons for the university system’s success. Maine has a high percentage of full-dose immunization (74.4 percent), compared to the university’s systemwide average of 88.3 percent.
However, state health experts have stated in briefings that the Delta variety just needs a short window to cause havoc. According to Maine Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav D. Shah, this is mostly what happened among the unvaccinated population. Some locations, particularly rural ones, may not have immunization rates that are comparable to the state average.
A vaccine requirement on the campuses of the University of Maine seems to have helped protect students from the social transmission prevalent in the rest of the state. As per the university, the campus obtained some protection when more students were vaccinated early in the semester.